Sunday, January 25, 2009

Ghost in the Machine

For years, my fuel economy has been going down.

The first car I ever owned was an '87 Geo Spectrum. You never heard of it? Neither has anyone else. It was a re-badged Isuzu I-mark, a no-frills compact with a 5-speed and a 1.5l engine.

It also got 47 miles per gallon.

Now I have never been a real lead-foot. I try to pay attention to where I am driving, and get there alive. Still, 47 MPG without trying was always pretty nice. The car had a ten gallon tank and gas was just under a dollar a gallon in those days. Sure was nice to go almost 500 miles on never more than $10 at the pump.

When that car finally died...Well it sort of never did die.

My friend Steve had the same car, only two years newer and with the Chevy name instead of the Geo.

This was right after Steve had finished college for computer engineering, and was now off to his corporate job. That also meant buying a "real" car.

On his way to the dealership to trade in the old Spectrum, the hood flew up, smashing the windshield. He pulled over, tied the hood down to the car with some networking cable, and drove right back home. The car was now worthless.

It sat in the parking lot of his apartment complex for a year or so, right up to the day my old car's engine quit.

When he heard of my car problems, (and typical lack of funds) he immediately offered to sell me his old car for nothing more than the cost of the new battery he put in not long before the hood and windshield became such close friends.

So now I had two cars. One with no engine, and one with no windshield or hood. It only made sense to move the hood and windshield from the older car to the newer one.

The hood was easy. Undo four bolts, move the hood, put those four bolts back in. Not bad. The brown hood on the white car looked pretty funny, but nothing a can of spray paint couldn't fix. I also moved a few interior panels form the old car into the new one. The brown plastic didn't match the gray plastic of the newer interior, but having rear speakers in this car felt pretty luxurious.

Moving a windshield would prove to be much more difficult than moving a hood. Difficult enough that I decided to call the pro's.
In one phone call, I had arranged for "the guys in the little red trucks" to come out and remove the shattered windshield from the '89, then pull the good windshield from the '87 and put it in the '89. We agreed to $100 for this service, and that the window repairer would bring with their least expensive windshield to fit the car in case the old one cracked during removal, as they couldn't guarentee that wouldn't happen.

That Saturday morning, two glass installers showed up, said hello, then got to work on the car. I was amazed at the array of specialized tools these guys had. Hooks and picks and wire saws. Things to pick away caulk. Suction cups on sticks.

It took these two skilled men FOUR hours to accomplish the transplant. In the last 3 hours, I could see them checking their watches and glaring at each other. It was obvious that they had not planned for it to take that long.

When they were finally finished, the senior installer printed an invoice on his portable truck computer printer, angrily crossed off the printed-out numbers with a magic marker, and wrote $100 in their place.

I handed the man my hard-earned $100 and bid him good day. Through the black marker ink, I could read that what the cost would have come to was close to the neighborhood of what I originally paid for my old car.

The old car was dragged off as a donation to the fire department, to be cut to pieces in practice of passenger extraction and "jaws of life" training. At least it still had some use in it.

But now I had the REincarnation of my first car. It was given a fresh body and VIN, but still had the same soul. In fact it had more character than ever, with it's patchwork of tinted and clear glass, gray and brown interior and brown and white skin.

That car moved sofas, attended drive-in movies, and logged tens of thousands of miles on the road. It got me to work, and drove me to meet my girlfriend.

The new "reformulated" 10% ethanol was mandated by law in my area. Fuel economy in my car dropped from 47 mpg to 30, although it did eventually go back up to 35. That's still better than anyone else I knew, with the exception of a friend or two with a Geo Metro.

Of course, it wasn't a new car, and Wisconsin's salted winter roads took its toll on the car's body.

The whole underside of the car started rusting out. The rocker panels were just about gone. So, it was time for me to try some body work. I made new rocker panels from some long strips of aluminum. I ground down rust and bondo'ed holes in the body. It wasn't pretty, but at least I did it my self. I was proud of my work, worts and all.

Still, it would be great if there was some way to camouflauge the poorly finished bodywork. By now I had bothered to paint the hood white to match the rest of the car. As images of army camouflage whirled in my head, I looked at the white car and realized there was only one thing to do.

Paint it like a cow.

I grabbed a roll of self-adhesive contact paper and a razor and started cutting Holstein shapes and pasting them to the automotive body. My ever-handy Rustoleum paint can rattled and sprayed, forming patterns of slick, black blobs.

Peeling away the templates, I now had something truely unique, my first rolling experiment; the Cow Car.

Did I mention this was the day before my wedding?

I had to scrub like heck to get all the black over-spray off my forearms, and then get to the dinner

The wedding was wonderful, even without my wife's mother, who passed away only six weeks earlier from cancer.

Death is hard. There's no controlling it, no stopping it. Just an overwhelming sense of powerlessness. And an absence. The big hole that's left behind when that person is no longer there to fill it.

That's when I started working on projects. It was something I could do. Something I could control and build and take pride in. A way to "work it out of my system".

The day after the wedding, all of my wife's out of town relatives waited outside the hotel for the taxi to take them back to the airport. It was time for us to go to. I walked into the far corner of the lot where my brother had dropped it off. He filled up the gas tank. For some reason, I always remember that.

I pulled the car up to the hotel carport - all the relative stared. My new wife stared. She hadn't seen the new paint job yet.
Then they all burst out laughing.

It's hard not to smile when you see a car painted with such obvious frivolity.
I was always amazed by the positive reactions to the car.

People would constantly honk and wave and smile. One time I was at a traffic light and saw a flash of light. I looked over and saw a car-load of cute college girls smiling and taking photos of the car. I smiled back.

The car was the embodiment of anti-road rage. Even on days of dark and dreary mind, my car was there for me and brought a smile.

I still remember the day when the car car died. It's easy to remember. You see, it was September 11th.

September 11th, 2002. One year after the attack on the Twin Towers - and my brother's birthday.

Of course, his birthday was now a National Tragedy. We had planned a birthday party to cheer him up, complete with a custom birthday cake with Cheetara of Thundercats fame on it.

On the freeway, after picking up my sister, the engine started acting funny and stopped completely. I pulled over to the side of the busy interstate, nothing but asphalt and on-ramps as far as the eye could see. Coolant hissed and steamed from under the hood. I later found out that those one coolant hose on the car that was almost impossible to check had given out. Coolant leaked out and the engine seized. It was a hot day for September.

My hung head low over the engine compartment as car sped by, without a car. No more smiles. No more girls with cameras.
One distant voice hollered "And it's ugly too!" as the doppler effect carried it past.

In the back seat, Cheetara melted into a pool of frosting.

I always remember that as a tough day. My friend Eric took a look at the car, and declared it to be a horse with a broken leg. Shoot it, and carry your saddle to town. He took care of hauling it off to a junk yard.

Next came the automotive equivalent of a series of one night stands. Junky and cheap station wagons, unremarkable econo-boxes, vans, borrowed vehicles, whatever worked and got me a few weeks of transportation. I still have the proof of a dozen license plates nailed up in my garage.

That's when Steve again came to my automotive aid. "Get over here, he only wants $100 for it!" was the excitement in his voice, telling me of his next-door neighbor who was trying to quickly get rid of a '93 Dodge Shadow.

I eyed the car. There was absolutely nothing remarkable about it. It had an automatic transmission - which meant it wouldn't even have close to the economy of my old car. It was a two-door, so not as good for passengers in the back. The trunk was tiny. The only redeeming quality was that it was in fact a hatchback.

I put down my $100 and drove that car for the next 100,000 miles.

It became the car I loved to hate. It was too small for towing, but too big for good fuel economy, but it was always exactly good enough for whatever I needed it too be, and not quite bad enough to be sick of and sell.

That was until gas prices started going up. And this car had the worst fuel economy of any I had owned so far.

I also decided that I would get better utility out of a small pickup truck than I would from the car. I bought an S10 with a 5-speed and the EXACT same size engine. It would get better fuel economy in regular driving than the car, and tow better as well.

I now had the truck a few months, everything was working on it, and it was time to get rid of the car.
I sold it for $500 to a girl from the city. Well, her father actually, he's the one who paid and signed the title. "Yeah, I GUESS I'll take it." she mumbled. She was every bit as excited to buy it as I was.

Finally free of my abusive relationship with the Dodge, I was already into other projects. The truck was great for pulling my home-built "teardrop" trailer camper. Building that camper was my way of working through my father-in-law dying of cancer.

The truck was also great for hauling my electric motorcycle out to events. Now I was on an exciting new adventure of building an electric car.

This time, it wasn't about working through any issues of mortality. It was about proving something to myself. Seeing what I could do. Proving myself against all the voices in my youth that I would never amount to anything. So, I started building one more project.

The electric car.

It ended up being a Geo Metro, a car which had been a satellite to my life - my sister drove one, my best friend drove one. To this day, my brother-in-law has the last one of anyone I personally know. The Metro is also a return to my automotive roots, a re-badged import that has far more character than an SUV driver could ever imagine.

The "Electro-Metro" took on a life of its own. I never knew the where its story would take me. Junk yards, energy fairs, even the court-room. I have met more people and had more experiences in the the last year than it seems like I had in the rest of my life.

In the latest chapter, I was finally able to get the emissions testing exemption taken care of .
A few days ago, the license plate sticker came in the mail. I finally bothered to brave the cold and put the sticker on the car.

The stack on previous stickers sat thick on the salty bottom right corner of the plate. I decided to use a chisel to remove all the old stickers to make a clean, new place for this special one. As I cut through the old stickers, I literally cut through time as well.
How many years back did this go? Years, lots of them. I couldn't read any of the dates undernieghth, but it bore the uncanny similarity to counting rings on a tree stump.

I finally made it down to the bare plate and stuck on the sticker. I went into the house to get my camera to snap a photo to share with my friends.

It's amazing how looking through a camera changes things. You often see things you otherwise never would, even though they are right in front of you.

Smack in the middle of the plate was the sticker from 1999. And I don't think that was the oldest sticker on the plate either.
This plate had been on one car or another, with me, for over a decade.

How far back did it go?

The image struck an unusual familiarity with me. How can I have seen this plate so many times before, and yet I had seen it elsewhere as well?

I went into the house. Many of our pictures, in frames, are in boxes still from the smoke damage we had to our house this summer.

I dug through the box of photographs that hung on our wall, and found a small, white, double-frame. It held two photographs and a key.

On the left is the photo of my wife and I, the day after our wedding, taken by one of her relatives, waiting to go to the airport. One the right is a photo of her and I at my parent's house the next day. We kneel in front of a "Just Married" sign hanging on the back of a white car with black cow spots. Together, we frame the license plate - the same plate hanging in front of me on a Geo Metro that I have poured my blood, sweat, and tears, but NOT gasoline into.

Somehow, through deaths and marrige, ups in life, and downs that I try not to remember at all, my first car is still there for me.
I know that inanimate objects don't have souls, but if they did, I know that one would be smiling at me from heaven right now.

I'm still driving the same car, I just didn't realize it until now.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Heat Sink for Open Source EV Motor Controller

My little contribution to the Open Source EV Motor Controller project.

I just happened to have the perfect heat sink for the controller, so off it goes in the mail!

If you are interested in helping support Open Source DIY electric vehicles, please consider a PayPal contribution using the DONATE button to the right.



Getting Off Gas - 3 - Mercedes Diesel start

Continuing my quest to get off gasoline, I am finally able to actually get the Mercedes started!

I got the block heater figured out, and it works great now!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Electric car wash!

Is it smart to run an electric car through a car wash?
I'm not sure, but the car was really salty and dirty, so I got the deluxe wash, including the "Underbody Blast!"

Friday, January 16, 2009

Ford Model T - 100 Years Later

With all of our thought about cars nowadays, it's always good to look back through history a bit.

The Model T Ford was groundbreaking - it changed the automobile industry like no other vehicle ever has.

There is still a Model T that runs around my neighborhood regularly. I still haven't been able to track down the owner, but rest assured, when I do, I will take lots of photo and see if I can interview him.

Take a look at this fun history video from CarDataVideo.

13 Below and falling

I am working at a local theater tonight and tomorrow night.

I knew I was going to be taking the electric car, so I plugged in the oil-filled electric radiator heater.

I let it get nice and warm in the car - hopefully heating the batteries too!

It's negative 13 ℉ (-25℃) right now, so I really wanted to see how the car would fare.

The ride in to town was nice and warm - at least it's sunny today.

I dropped off my equipment at the theater, and the theater manager gave me a hand unloading my Metro.

Her: "What a CUTE car!"

Me: "Thanks, it's battery-operated." I say right as I open to hatch to grab gear out of it. A nice view of the batteries can't be missed with the hatch open.

Her: "Cool!!!"

She than laughed at the fact that I had an electric heater in the back seat. After I told her how my car is warm already when I hop it in, I have heat right away, and it stays warm for a bit after unplugging, she wondered if the same idea would work in her truck!

Once I had all my equipment set-up for the evening, I left for the ride back home. The interior of the car was now cold, so it's back to cracking the window open to keep from frosting up.

The highest speed I could get to was 35 mph, which is fine for all but the last quarter mile to my house, where the speed limit goes up to 45, it's uphill, and SUV's are breathing down my neck.

With the pedal to the floor, the car was going 30 mph (uphill) for the last short bit right before my house. The ammeter read 200 amps. This is a 400 amp controller, so either my potentiometer has come out of adjustment, or I just can NOT pull enough amps out of my batteries when they are cold! I am guessing the later.

Once home, I put the car back on the charger, and plugged in the heater.

This is about a 5 mile round-trip, which I will repeat again this evening, when temperatures will be even lower, and the car will sit in the cold even longer.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

3 Degrees of Separation

When I got home today, I thought I might try starting the Mercedes.

It's pretty cold today - 3℉. Typical winter temperatures in my area in winter are usually in the teens and 20's. Single digits are fairly cold, but less common than 15 to 25 degrees.

Since the car has been sitting since Sunday, and it's cold, I figured this is a good chance to see what it does with a cold start on regular petrol-diesel fuel.

I turned the key to the on position, and pulled on the start/kill rod.

The car has a handle you pull to use the glow plugs, start the engine, and kill the engine.

To use the glow plugs (I finally figured this out..) you pull on the rod until just before the starter would kick on. Hold it there until the little light on the dashboard glows. In fact, it's not actually a light at all, but a hot piece of metal. I imagine this is a material with similar resistance to the glow plugs, so that it and the plugs both "light-up" at the same time.

Once the glow-plug indicator is going, you pull the rod the rest of the way out to activate the starter.

This pull knob is spring-loaded and very uncomfortable to hold. I will either need to change this when I do the truck conversion, or order a wrist splint.

With the glow-plugs lit up, I activated the starter and cranked away. Not too much happened. Seemed like it wanted to start.

I repeated the glow-plug and starter sequence a couple more times, with no luck.

I had no problems with it a couple days ago in 20℉ weather.

While the car DOES have a block heater, it isn't plugged in. And I don't mean into my electric outlet, I mean the other end. I followed the power cord, only to find the engine end dangling down in the engine compartment, rather than plugged into the block.

In the cold and dark, I can not locate where the cord plugs in.

A block heater and battery heater will be essential components in my finished "Fossil-Fuel-Free" vehicle.

If I DO decide in the end to design the vehicle to also be able to run on vegetable oil, all sorts of heated components will be required.

Giving it some more thought, the "transplant" of the Benz engine into my pickup truck is going to take longer than I think.

That means I will be without long-range transportation while for the duration of the open-hood surgery.

Couple that with the limited range I can get on electric vehicles in the winter, and it means I will have a tough time getting around from when the project starts, to when it's finished.

Two different options I can think of are:
1: Wait til it's warmer - Use the electric car to get around until the truck is done
2: Buy a different truck, do the transplant into it, then sell my truck.

I don't love either plan. I would like to get started sooner rather than later, and waiting for warmer weather will slow me down. I also don't want to buy another vehicle - it means re-registering (costs money!) dealing with insurance and titling, etc. More work and money into the project.

I think I just need to learn a little patience here.

If I can hold my horses for a little while, I may even be able to install more batteries and an Open Source controller in my Metro EV. That would give me a 30 mile range on electric.

I also might be able to borrow somebody's car for a bit. I have an 18 year old brother who still lives with my parents. He has a Taurus he might be able to part with for a week or two, especially if he could borrow the Citicar to drive to school in.

Anyways, it's COLD outside.

At least I am thinking about it right now, so I can plan for it, instead of next winter and have my truck dead somewhere, filled with solid bio-fuel!

Sunday, January 11, 2009

This morning, Rich came over, and he and I head out to where the Mercedes was, a little less than a two-hours drive west of my house.

Once we finally get to the address, we see a classic Firestone sign on the garage and a Cushman parked in the driveway - this is a good sign.

Parking the truck, we head towards the one open garage door to meet the seller. He was in working on his car, and the garage was filled many motorcycles, including classic Harleys and scooters. We think we like this guy already.

The Mercedes 240D was sitting right there.
We popped the hood and got the tour of it. The body is in good condition, but for one big rust hole on the drivers side, and some floor rot in the back seat. The engine looked pretty good, and the car had a new starter and a new (big!) battery.

We started the car (I still don't know how the glow plug light thing works). It is more steps than starting a gas car, but compared to what I have heard about diesels, it started right up.

This car has a pretty neat looking front end. The grill and headlights have a bit of style the way that mid 90's cars never did. I am hoping to be able to sell parts off the car to help cover some of the cost of the purchase.

Purchase? Where's my cash? Doh! I zipped the cash I picked up from the bank yesterday inside my coat pocket. My OTHER coat!

Um - sorry seller, I don't actually have any money with me.... Is there an ATM machine around somewhere?

He pointed out where in town there was a bank with an ATM. Now how much money can I take out of it?

I swiped my card and punched in a number of hundreds of dollars. The screen blinks "Processing"... and then denies my request for cash.

A receipt with "daily maximum exceeded" is all the rejection I need for the day.

I seem to recall from reading my bank's fine print that there is a limit to both the maximum you can take from an ATM, and a higher total maximum per day.

$400 seems to ring a bell.
I Request $400 from the Automated Teller. This time, I am rewarded with a stack of green crispy 20's.

Try Again? Get more cash?
I try, but get another Dear John letter. Time to stop pushing my luck.

We drive back to the seller and fork over the $400 plus another $100 we put together between the two of us. I promise to deliver the rest of the payment in check or whatever form the seller is agreeable to.

He's a nice guy and tells me that I seem to be a good character. We finish the deal by trading contact information and a handshake.

He also threw in a big jug of the original fuel he drained from the tank after he bought the car. I'm not sure if the fuel is any good or not, but a big jug will be great to have once I start collecting oil and brewing bio-diesel.

Backing out of the driveway, I have the first glimpse of how this car is a rolling....... OK - let's not call it a rolling death-trap. Let's just say that it's not my type of car.

The brakes on this thing are not good. "That's OK" I keep telling myself.. I bought it for the engine. I bought it for the engine.

However, bad brakes, a diesel engine, and an automatic transmission are not a good combination. That would be the torque of a diesel, a transmission that makes the car want to go whether or not you give it throttle, and brakes that can't hold it back!

After the second traffic light, I just started shifting into neutral before coming to the light.

According to the fuel gauge, it had a little less than half a tank. I asked the seller if this was accurate, and he had no idea. He suggested that I don't trust it and stop at a gas station right away.

We pulled into the first gas station we found, only to see NO diesel pumps. Hmm. They have diesel listed on the sign. Must have pumps in back. Sure enough, they do - ones for the big rigs to fill up at.

I pull up and swipe my debit card to pay at the pump - recalling that I may have just maxed it out for the day ten minutes earlier. However, the card does clear. The Lord's of Automation are smiling on me.

As I put the diesel hose into the car, I notice it is HUGE compared to a regular gas pump nozzle. This is a fire-hose of fuel pumps.
I jam the nozzle into my fuel tank filler as best I can, and flip the little trigger that sets the handle so it automatically kicks the pump off when the tank is full - which would be exactly ten seconds later.

Five gallons! In under ten seconds!? That's a big fuel hose! Guess that's the only way to fill a big rig. The fuel gauge still reads exactly what it does before.

The fun continues on the drive home. The defroster controls are totally unlabeled. As the windshield freezes up, I fiddle with the defroster controls, and several other mysterious black knobs that seem to have no purpose.

For a while, the defroster blower squeals away managing to clear a small view of the road. It eventually quits working all together, and I crack the window, Electro-Metro style.

On the way back home, Rich and I stop for lunch, and then fiddle with the car in the parking lot. Hmm, the odometer hasn't moved at all yet has it? We aren't able to get the heat to work. I threaten to use the restaurant men's room hot air hand drier to defrost my toes. Unfortunately, they only have paper towels.

A Delicious Cheeseburger improves my mood and we get back on the road, planning to stop in at a Community Supported Energy meeting. At the meeting, they are cooking hotdogs and heating a pole barn with a FEMA down-draft gasifier running on sustainably produced wood pellets. We take a look at their project technology and say hello to a few folks, including the two guys there who are making their own bio-diesel. I tell them my plan about the Merc-Chevy. Nobody laughs. I am obviously in the right place. We talk about the possiblilty of using the truck to drive around picking up restaurant oil.

Finally back home, Rich drops off my giant jug o' fuel and points out the fact the the MB weighs about a thousand pounds more than the truck. That's good to know. The truck pulling my camper should feel about the same as just driving the Mercedes did.

After grabbing my notebook and title from the back seat of the Benz, I close the door. Or try to. Why won't the back door close!?!?

I bought it for the engine.....I bought it for the engine.....I bought it for the engine....

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Electric Car Savings
Electric Car Savings

There is an amazing number of people converting cars to electric, and sharing the information by web-based video.

One of these people is Blair Fraser.

He's converted a Holden Barina (Australian version of the older style Geo Metro) into an electric car.

Not just any electric car. One that looks GOOD and has great range as well.

Just this morning, I got an e-mail from Blair that he has national news coverage on the car. It's a great story and sums everything up far better than I can.

So, click the video link at the top of this page to watch the video and enjoy.

Congrats, Blair.

To connect with Blair (Ipgas1) through YouTube, please visit:

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Dodge Neon EV Conversion - Battery Box Construction Video

Want to build your own electric car?

Well, you are going to need plenty of batteries. And where are you going to put them all? In battery boxes, of course.

Watch this video to see how the battery boxes for the Neon EV are built.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Electric Car passes Emissions Testing!

What a day.

Had to get up and hitch up the ol' Metro to the S10 for an hour's drive into the city.

I misplaced one of the cotter pins for the Metro tow bar, so I used a stock one from a bin of them I had. The type where you poke them through and bend them over.

When I finally got to the Technical Center and went to unhitch the Metro, that cotter pin was long gone. I later found it on the top side of the belly pan. I would need a replacement before I towed again!

Once unhitched, I guided the Metro across the glare ice of the test center parking lot and slid right into the front and center parking space.

Heading inside, and employee grunted at me to have a seat in what looked like their lunch room. A few minutes later, I was informed that I needed to fill out the first couple lines of a particular form, and an employee asked me for my keys.

Him: "Anything special I need to drive this car?"
Me: "Put it in second, turn the key until you hear the click, and drive it."

I was also informed that, due to insurance liability, I could not come back into the car bay area until they said so.

Uh, oh. Other people driving my car, then doing who knows what with it behind my back? This could go bad....

Fortunately, I was called into the back soon after. There were lots of smiles on lots of faces.

I popped the hood and did the tour, telling of the voltage, how I used a forklift motor, the whole nine yards.

I think every employee of the building must have been through in the next few minutes. They were especially impressed with the "gas tank charging door".

My "inspection" consisted of being asked plenty of questions about the car - "How far can you go on a charge", etc. and lots of photos being taken of it.

The inspectors were friendly and helpful, including giving me some information on helping out other EVers get their emissions exemption. I was even told that there was another technical center within electric car driving range of Tom's house. He will just be able to DRIVE his NEON to the test center when the time comes!

The inspectors told me that they get all sorts of crazy things coming in there. One car they saw was simply referred to as "the Hydrogen Bomb".

We had a pretty good discussion about alternative energy and transportation. The one inspector makes his own bio-diesel, and not only DRIVES on it, but HEATS HIS HOUSE with it as well!

The other inspector invited me to be a presenter for an future Automotive Technician's club meeting.

Once I actually had the A-OK on my car, I mentioned the speeding ticket and pulled out the newspaper article. They all got a kick out of that and ran a couple photo-copies of it.

It was great that not only did I find some decent guys at the test center, but that they were also very supportive and forward thinking fellows. Kudos to them!

So it's official.

My car is licensed, registered, insured, and ready to roll. All I have to do is put that little sticker on the license plate when it comes in the mail.

In some ways, this is an end; another crazy project under my belt. Another thing saying "Can't we do better?"

So what's next? Bio-diesel, truck engine swap, renewable energy co-op? Helping friends. I know a contractor who wants to get his truck going on bio-diesel. I know a woman who wants to convert her pontoon boat to electric.

We are still working on Tom's Neon, and after that, Rich is making a scratch-built EV sports Trike.

My garage still needs rebuilding. Perhaps straw bales with a green roof?

Things are starting to look up. People are examining the world around them and want positive change, and are willing to take it into their own hands to get it.

Can one little backyard project change the world?

It's changed mine.

Thanks friends for all your support on this project.

Keep it clean and green,


Sunday, January 4, 2009

EV Dodge Neon Conversion: Battery Boxes

Today, Tom, Rich, Brian and I worked on battery boxes for Tom's Dodge Neon EV conversion.

Tom had spent the week working on designing and building the battery boxes, complete with welding jigs. The boxes are hefty, galvanized sheet metal, bent into a U-shape, with dividers, and threaded rod welded on.

There are six boxes for the back of the car, each holding 3 to 5 batteries. We laid out the boxes and designed  supports to hold the boxes and attach them to the frame of the car.

This was one of those things that really made it feel like there was big advancement on the car. I know the same feeling as when the gasoline engine came out of my Metro.

Tom already has the electric motor and transmission back in the car, so it's really looking like an electric now. Once the batteries are in, it's a simple matter of hooking up the AC motor controller, as it's already pre-wired and bench-tested.

There's still a matter of battery chargers, instrumentation, monitoring equipment and more, but somehow, I have a feeling that an un-official test drive can't be too far away...

Saturday, January 3, 2009

The 144V Open Source EV Controller.

Of all the interesting people I have met in my Eco-Adventures, many of them are from over the internet. I only know them by screen name and YouTube video.

Yet at the same time, many of these people have been amazingly supportive and helpful in my projects.

One of these people is Paul.

This summer he was converting a VW Bug to electric at the same time I was, and with about the same budget, on a substitute teachers salary. He chronicled his adventures with clever wit entertaining enough to keep you coming back to check on how his car was doing, whether or not you are even into EV's. His mechanical skills were even less than mine, which was encouraging. If he can convert a Beetle, I MUST be able to convert a Metro.

In a shocking twist, Paul is far better with electronics than he ever let on.

He is currently working on an Open Source project for an EV motor controller.

The concept is simple. Bring down the cost of home electric vehicle conversions by designing a higher-voltage motor controller, build it, and share the parts list, parts supplier, schematics, and all the other tips of how to build one yourself.

Paul is back at school and short on time and money. The time, well, we all have the same 24 hours in a day... As for the money, I think we all know that teachers are paid far less than they should be.

That's why I propose we all pass a few dollars Paul's direction. Put a few bucks in the virtual tin can to support the idea of us doing something for ourselves instead of waiting for Detroit, or expecting the Government to take care of us.

See that DONATE  button on the top-right of the screen? You want to click it, you know you do. Go ahead, all the money goes straight over to Paul to buy parts for the project.

Adopt a Mosfet. You'll be glad you did.



New Years Resolution - No More Gas!!!

I started thinking about this a while ago. The electric car has been great, but I would really like to take it further. I really want to go all the way and get completely OFF GASOLINE.

I'm still not sure how to do it, but bio-diesel and waste vegetable oil seem like to best options to explore.